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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

HUMANISTIC EDUCATION                  177

is well shown in the treatise On the Liberal Education of Boys
which he addressed to the Duke of Cleves to help him in the
upbringing of his son. In this work he urges the importance of
beginning a child's education from the earliest years. He advises
that the child should be taught reading, writing and drawing
without the customary floggings, by means of games and stories,
while still at his mother's knee, and that after this first education
he should receive instruction in the Scriptures and the classics
either from his father or from an able and experienced teacher.
But the interest of the book is not in the scheme it suggests, or
in the practical insight shown in the measures proposed to give
it effect, but rather in the glimpses it gives of Erasmus* philosophy
of education.

Ttvo points (among many) are worthy of special note. The
first concerns the implications of education as it affects the child.
Erasmus distinguishes three factors in individual progress:
Nature, which is " partly innate capacity for being trained, partly
native bent towards excellence; " Training, " the skilled ap-
plication of instruction and guidance ; " and Practice, " the free
exercise on our own part of that activity which has been implanted
by Nature and is furthered by Training."* For him the greatest
of these is training. Nature is strong, but training supplemented
by practice is stronger still. There is practically nothing which
it cannot accomplish. And yet though Erasmus has this profound
faith in the possibilities of the right direction of the mind, he
never forgets those differences of individuality due to native bent,
which incline one " to mathematics, another to divinity, another
to rhetoric or poetry, another to war.*' But while paying proper
regard to them, he remains of the opinion " that where the
method is sound, where teaching and practice go hand in hand,
any discipline may ordinarily be acquired by the flexible intellect
of man."

The second point of note is the recognition of the social
implications of education: that education is as much a matter
of social as of individual concern. Erasmus looks at this from
two sides. On the one hand, he impresses on the parents their
obligations to the community. " Your children," he says to the
father, " are begotten not to yourself alone but to your country:
not to your country alone but to God."* From which he draws
* Woodward, p. 191*